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History of Hip Hop

Major elements: black pride - breakdancing - DJing - graffiti art - MCing - scratching - turntablism

Related: afrobeat - black music - black pride - disco - electro - electro funk - funk - rap - house - Jamaican music - jazz - Miami bass - popular music - r&b - reggae - seventies

Musical elements: beat - break - mix - rhyme - rhythm - sample - sound system

Artists and producers: Afrika Bambaataa - Arthur Baker - Peter Brown - Grandmaster Flash - Spoonie Gee - Kenny 'Dope' Gonzalez - John Robie - Sylvia Robinson - Todd Terry - Paul Winley

Influences: Chic - George Clinton - Gil Scott Heron - Martin Luther King, Jr. - Kraftwerk - The Last Poets

Hip Hop (Cultural Movement)

Hip hop is a cultural movement that began amongst urban (primarily, but not entirely, African American) youth in New York and has since spread around the world. The four main elements of hip-hop are MCing, DJing, graffiti art, and breakdancing. The term has since come to be a synonym for rap music to mainstream audiences. The two are not, however, interchangeable - rapping (MCing) is the vocal expression of lyrics in sync to a rhythm beneath it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop

Hip Hop (Music)

Hip hop music is related to the griots of West Africa, traveling singers and poets whose musical style is reminiscent of hip hop. Some griot traditions came with slaves to the New World. The most important direct influence on the creation of hip hop music is the Jamaican style called dub, which arose in the 1960s. Dub musicians such as King Tubby isolated percussion breaks because dancers at clubs (sound systems) preferred the energetic rhythms of the often-short breaks. Soon, performers began speaking in sync with these rhythms. In 1967, Jamaican immigrants such as DJ Kool Herc brought dub to New York City, where it evolved into hip hop. In Jamaica, dub music has diversified into genres like ragga and dancehall. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop_music

Hip Hop Timeline




DJ Kool Herc

Kool Herc

Kool DJ Herc, the godfather of hip-hop, was a Jamaican-born DJ who moved to the Bronx in 1967. With his unique playlist of R&B, soul, funk, and obscure disco, Herc quickly became the catalyst of the hip-hop way of life. The kids from the Bronx and Harlem loved his ghetto style, which gave birth to the concept of the B-Boy. The B-Boy -- or beat boy, break boy, Bronx boy -- loved the breaks of Kool Herc, and as a result soon created break dancing. These were the people of the hip-hop culture. While Pete DJ Jones was #1 for the black disco crowd in NYC, Herc and the B-Boys were the essence of the hip-hop movement, because of they lived the lifestyle. The way they danced, dressed, walked, and talked was unique, as opposed to most of the disco artists and fans of the time, who were not as in touch with the urban streets of America. [...]


When DJ Kool Herc performed to Breaks at crowded venues, such as the Hervalo in the Bronx, he would shout loudly 'B-Boys go down!' and this was the cue for dancers to cut and jump their gymnastics. Even today nobody is quite clear what Kool Herc meant by his phrase. Some suggest B-Boys stands for 'Boogie Boy' while others insist it means 'Break Boy'. The later has become the favored choice. But who were the original B-Boys and where had they learned their skillz? Again the answer is fairly straight-forward. They had simply adapted what they had been doing on the ghetto streets. [...]

Homophobia [...]

[...] What hasn't changed is the gap between rap and house, an antipathy which exists between these two forms of soul music. [...] According to Frankie Knuckles, this goes to the core of attitudes towards gays, especially amongst the black community. "The fact that house got started in the gay clubs makes it tough for some of them to deal with it." This is about more than musical taste; for Frankie, it goes to the core of the future of minority groups in the US. And, ironically, it's rap, with all of its violence and too-frequent lapses into intolerance and homophobia, that has pushed things along.


First DJs were Jamaicans

Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music. In the early 70's, a Jamaican dj known as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY's West Bronx. Here, he attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately, New Yorkers weren't into reggae at the time. Thus Kool Herc adapted his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the day's popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired segment.

In those early days, young party goers initially recited popular phrases and used the slang of the day. For example, it was fashionable for dj to acknowledge people who were in attendance at a party. These early raps featured someone such as Herc shouting over the instrumental break; 'Yo this is Kool Herc in the joint-ski saying my mellow-ski Marky D is in the house'. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to call out their own names and slogans.

As this phenomenon evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate as dj in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes-'Davey D is in the house/An he'll turn it out without a doubt.' It wasn't long before people began drawing upon outdated dozens and school yard rhymes. Many would add a little twist and customize these rhymes to make them suitable for the party environment. At that time rap was not yet known as 'rap' but called 'emceeing'. With regards to Kool Herc, as he progressed, he eventually turned his attention to the complexities of djaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent (not Dana Dane's dj) handle the microphone duties. This was rap music first emcee team. They became known as Kool Herc and the Herculoids. [...]


Rap is where you first heard it [sampling] --Grandmaster Flash's 1981 "Wheels of Steel," which scratched together Queen, Blondie, the Sugarhill Gang, the Furious Five, Sequence, and Spoonie Gee --but what is sampling if not digitized scratching? If rap is more an American phenomenon, techno is where it all comes together in Europe as producers and musicians engage in a dialogue of dazzling speed. [...]

10 Hip Hop Myths Dismissed

  1. "There is a difference between hip hop and rap music."
  2. "Hip Hop is Black music."
  3. "Rakim is the greatest MC of all time."
  4. "Biggie Smalls was assasinated by the FBI."
  5. "Rap music started in the Bronx."
  6. "There are no gay hip hop artists."
  7. "Hip Hop is threatened by corporations."
  8. "The best hip hop music was made in the 1980s."
  9. "No one in hip hop has a sense of humor."
  10. "Hip Hop is dead."
Being that hip hop is such a poorly documented culture, it is understandable that subjective opinions and false myths run amok. Now, a fact is a fact. And a fact can be backed up with unrefutable evidence. But what I have collected here are a bunch of rumors, hearsay, and subjective opinions which are often presented as facts. I have collected, what I think are the most blatantly false "myths", and given my perspective on them. The purpose is to reexamine commonly accepted beliefs within the hip hop community. --Eric Nord for http://www.stinkzone.com/writing/hiphop_myths.html, accessed May 2003


  1. Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below (2003) - Outkast[Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    At a time when experimentation is taboo in most overground rap, thatís all Outkast seem intent on executing. Firstly, this double CD has no cohesive link, other than the fact that it sounds like a pair of solo albums stitched together to demo exactly how Andreís yin works to augment Big Boiís yang. Andre 3000ís Love Below disc rates as the more eclectic of the two, given that heís turned in his emcee credentials to become a full-on funk-soul-jazz vocalist who mostly sings about items of love ("Happy Valentine's Day"), carnal lust ("Spread"), and female adoration ("Prototype"). Minus the big band schmaltz of "Love Hater" and cheesy cover jobs ("My Favorite Things"), Andreís disc is sick (meaning great). As is to be expected, the Big Boi disc is less arty, more gangsta and worldly, and features the less-progressive guest raps of ATL crunk purveyors Lilí Jon and The Eastside Boyz ("Last Call") and Jay-Z who rhymes the hook on "Flip Flop Rock". Unlike Big Boi, Andre keeps his collabos to a minimum, once crooning alongside Norah Jones on the cool yet sappy "Take Off Your Cool", and once with Kelis. Boi fulfills his Dungeon Family duty with flying colors by flipping some dirty southern up-tempo raps over electro beats on "GhettoMusick". By the time Cee-Lo sermonizes on "Reset", Speakerboxx and Love Below rate mostly as majestic and inspiring, with the remaining 23 per cent being just plain incredible --Dalton Higgins, Amazon.com

  2. Hip-Hop From The Top: Part 1 - Various Artists [1 CD, Amazon US]
    1. Skanless Hip-Hop from the Top Mega-Mix 2. Rapper's Delight - The Sugarhill Gang 3. Breaks - Kurtis Blow 4. Sucker D.J.'s (I Will Survive) - Dimples D. 5. Request Line - Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic Three 6. What People Do for Money - Divine Sounds 7. Adventures of Super Rhyme - Jimmy Spicer 8. King of the Beat - Pumpkin 9. Message - Duke Bootee 10. Friends - Whodini 11. One for the Treble - Davy DMX 12. Pure - Captain Rock [...]

  3. Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap: Vol. 3 [Amazon US]
    1. Rock Box - Run DMC 2. Friends - Whodini 3. Five Minutes Of Funk - Whodini 4. Jail House Rap - Fat Boys 5. Roxanne, Roxanne - UTFO 6. The Bridge - M.C. Shan 7. Rebel Without A Pause - Public Enemy 8. Criminal Minded - Boogie Down Productions 9. Raw - Big Daddy Kane 10. It Takes Two - Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock 11. Vapors - Biz Markie 12. Just A Friend - Biz Markie

  4. Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap: Vol. 2 [Amazon US]
    1. Rapper's Delight (Short 12' Version) - Sugarhill Gang 2. Funk You Up (Short 12' Version) - The Sequence 3. Rappin And Rocking The House (Album Version) - Funky Four Plus One More 4. Christmas Rappin' - Kurtis Blow 5. The Breaks - Kurtis Blow 6. Monster Jam - Spoonie Gee Meets The Sequence 7. Jazzy Sensation (Short 12' Bronx Version) - Africa Bambaataa & The Jazzy Five 8. Feel The Heartbeat - The Treacherous Three 9. The Message - Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five 10. Starski Live At The Disco Fever - 'Love Bug' Starski 11. One For The Treble (Fresh) - Davy DMX

  5. Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap: Vol. 1 [Amazon US]
    1. Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (In The Jungle...) - James Brown 2. Get Into Something - The Isley Brothers 3. Melting Pot - Booker T. & The M.G.'s 4. Listen To Me - Baby Huey 5. Scorpio - Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band 6. It's Just Begun - The Jimmy Castor Bunch 7. Apache - Micheal Viner's Incredible Bongo Band 8. Hum Along And Dance - The Jackson 5 9. Love The Life You Live - Black Heart 10. Theme From S.W.A.T. (Extended 7' Version) - Rhythm Heritage 11. Dance To The Drummer's Beat - Herman Kelly & Life 12. King Tim III (Personal Jock) - Fatback Band

  6. The Best of Enjoy Records [Amazon US]
    1. Superappin - Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five 2. Love Rap - Spoonie Gee 3. Body Rock - Kool Moe Dee 4. At the Party - Kool Moe Dee 5. It's Magic - Fearless Four 6. Move With the Groove - Disco Four 7. Funk Box Party - Masterdon Committee 8. Feel the Heart Beat - Kool Moe Dee 9. Just Havin Fun - Doug E. Fresh 10. New Rap Language - Treacherous Three 11. Rockin' It - Fearless Four
    Enjoy was Bobby Robinson's label. This Harlem label had been home to saxophone legend King Curtis, and in 1979 it put out its first hip hop record, "Rappin' and Rockin' in the House" by The Funky Four (Plus One More). [more on Enjoy Records]

  7. Tribe Called Quest - Anthology [1CD, Amazon US]
    In their decade of existence, A Tribe Called Quest weren't rap's biggest hit makers, but their signature numbers indeed fill this CD with style, eclecticism, and laid-back but deliberate flow; indeed, the group's stature seems to have grown since its 1998 breakup. The continued importance of their music and ideals for many hip-hop fans will only be enhanced by Anthology's 18 tracks (Q-Tip's recent hit "Vivrant Thing," from the Violator album is a bonus track). Those unfamiliar with Tribe's achievement should have their heads and booties set into motion by the fellas' many moods, from the playful "Check the Rhime" and "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" to trenchant commentaries such as "Description of a Fool" and "Sucka Nigga." And with its inclusion here, the somewhat rare and all-the-way out "If the Papes Come" will doubtless reestablish itself as an underground favorite. --Rickey Wright


  1. Vibe History of Hip Hop (1999) - Alan Light [Amazon US]
    In his introduction, founding Vibe editor Alan Light justifies the magazine's 300-page hip-hop chronicle in historical terms, noting that while less than 15 years passed between Elvis's first single and Woodstock, it's been two full decades since rap busted out of New York City street parties via the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." It's a righteous point, and the multi-author Vibe History indeed deserves to be filed next to The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Like that book, Vibe's serves both as a fact-heavy primer and a passionate critical missive aimed straight for fans' hearts. Here we find all the contradictions of a pop-culture phenomenon: art and a hope for immortality rolled into a brightly colored form whose practitioners, even the most politically driven, demand to get paid. Or, as Charles Aaron writes in his essay on KRS-One, the rapper "has never failed to passionately contradict himself--footnotes, bibliography, and dope beats included." Those contradictions may not make the culture go, but as with rock's, they help make it both more frustrating and more fascinating. Whether reminiscing about the future shock of first hearing Run-D.M.C.'s "Sucker M.C.'s," gnawing at the tragic knots at the heart of Tupac Shakur's story, or celebrating women rappers, hip-hop movies, and dancehall reggae, these chapters do what the best music writing should--educate, excite, and lead the reader to the record racks. --Rickey Wright, amazon.com

  2. Rap Attack 3 - David Toop [Amazon US]
    "All music has a history, shameful or illustrious, but for a 14-year old chilling out in Playland, white nylon anorak with the hood pulled tight and maybe a pair of Nike kicks with the tongues pulled out, what matters in the mini-phones plugged into the Walkman (or one of its cheaper variants) is the post-NASA - Silicon Valley - Atari - TV Break Out - Taito - Sony - Roland - Linn - Oberheim - Lucas - Speilberg groove." That's David Toop on the "electro" music of the early '80s--just one of many subjects handled with real sensitivity and street smarts in _Rap Attack_, a classic text now in its third edition. A musician as well as a writer, Toop conveys the magnitude of hip hop's revolution in sound--combining the musique concrete of Edgar Varese with the urban frenzy of a Bronx social club at 2:00 a. m.--but also its verbal genius, a lineage extending from the griots of Northern Nigeria to "doin' the dozens" to Kool Keith. With a dry wit and the erudition of a walking pop-music encyclopedia, Toop tells the tale of the amazing homegrown phenomenon that by 1998 "had overtaken country music to become America's biggest-selling format." --Tom Moody for amazon.com

  3. Hip Hop America - Nelson George [1 book, Amazon US]
    Although it's been part of the cultural soundscape for over 25 years, hip-hop has been the focus of very few books. And when those books do pop up, they tend to be either overtly scholarly, as if the writer in question has just landed on some alien planet, or a bit too much like a fanzine. If there's anyone qualified to write a solid, informative, and entertaining tome on the culture, politics, and business of hip-hop, it's Nelson George. A veteran journalist, George is one of the smartest and most observant chroniclers of African American pop culture. Much as he broke down and illuminated R&B with his acclaimed book The Death of Rhythm and Blues, George now tackles hip-hop with the clarity of a reporter and the enthusiasm of a fan--which is fitting, because George is both. A Brooklyn native, he began writing about rap back in the late 1970s, when the beats and the lifestyle were not only foreign to most white folks, they were still underground in the black communities. Hip Hop America is filled with George's memories of the scene's nascent years, and it tells the story of rap both as an art form and a cultural and economic force--from the old Bronx nightclub the Fever to the age of Puffy. Highlighting both the major players and some of the forces behind the scenes, George gives rap a historical perspective without coming off as too intellectual. All of which makes Hip Hop America a worthwhile addition to any fan's collection. --Amy Linden or amazon.com


  1. Style Wars (1983) - Tony Silver[Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Some call it tagging, some call it writing, still others call it bombing--it's all graffiti. Whether it's art or not is another matter, but it's undeniably illegal. Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's historic PBS documentary Style Wars tracks the rise and fall of subway graffiti in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the peak of its popularity, graffiti was as much a part of B-boy culture as rapping, scratching, and breaking. The filmmakers present a sympathetic, but well-rounded portrait of their subject through extensive interviews with taggers--notably Seen, Kase, and Dondi--art collectors, transit authorities, and even Mayor Ed Koch, who would eventually put the hammer down. Along the way, they documented the burgeoning breakdance scene, with a focus on the world-famous Rock Steady Crew. The soundtrack features selections from Grandmaster Flash, the Treacherous Three, and other tagger-approved icons of old-school hip-hop. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

  2. The Freshest Kids - A History of the B-Boy (2001)[Amazon US]
    The subtitle couldn't be more accurate: A History of the B-Boy is a comprehensive look at the world's "freshest kids." This lively documentary isn't about hip-hop or hip-hop culture as much as about an integral part of that culture. B-boys are defined, variously, as "breakboys" (the original term) and "breakdancers" (the more widely known one). These "kids," many now in their 30s, helped to shape hip-hop's look and spread its gospel. The narrative traces their evolution from the South Bronx 1970s to media-crazed 1980s--when they were featured in movies from Wild Style to Flashdance--to today, as the phenomenon has returned to the underground while remaining as popular as ever (as exemplified by footage from Germany, Japan, etc.). The old and new school are on hand to explain and to praise the b-boy; everyone from rappers like KRS-One and Mos Def to breakers like Crazy Legs and Ken Swift. --Kathleen C. Fennessy for amazon.com

  3. Wild Style (1982) - Charlie Ahearn [Amazon US]

    [T]he cult movie that captured the essence of the new sub-culture that was happening in the the Bronx, New York in the early 1980s.

    Wild Style is a slice of hip hop history with appearances from old-skool hip hop artists such as GrandMaster Flash, The Rock Steady Crew, Fab 5 Freddy, The Cold Crush Brothers, Rammellzee, Double Trouble and Grand Wizard Theodore.

  4. Scratch(2001) Doug Pray [Amazon US]
    In the language of hip-hop, the MC raps on top of the beats. The DJ--or turntablist--supplies the beats. Doug Pray's lively documentary is a tribute to these unsung heroes of the "scratch." His approach is neither dry nor academic and is designed as much for the masters of the form as for the fans. Pray was also behind Hype!, which focused on the Seattle scene in the 1980s and 1990s. In his 2002 follow-up, he travels as far back as the 1970s (DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa) and roams the U.S. from New York (Gang Starr's DJ Premier) to the Bay Area (DJ Shadow, Q-Bert). After watching the film and grooving to the beat, you're likely to wonder if there's a soundtrack to accompany it. Fortunately, there is--Bill Laswell, producer of Herbie Hancock's seminal "Rockit," is behind a compilation featuring many of the same artists celebrated in Scratch. --Kathleen C. Fennessy for amazon.com [...]

Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (1993) and jazz rap

Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (1993) - various artists [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1
Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 is a jazz rap album by alternative hip hop artist Guru, released on May 18, 1993 (see 1993 in music) on Chrysalis Records. The album revolutionized jazz rap, and is usually considered the first full-fledged fusion of jazz and hip hop. Live backing is provided by a band that includes Lonnie Liston Smith, Branford Marsalis, Rodney Jordan, Donald Byrd and Roy Ayers. The album also features collaborations with N'Dea Davenport (of the Brand New Heavies) and French rapper MC Solaar.

Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 peaked at #24 and #91 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums and the Billboard 200 albums charts. The single "Trust Me" peaked at #50 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles & Tracks chart. In spite of the lagging American sales, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 was a commercial success in Europe, where jazz was much more popular in the 1990s. --http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jazzmatazz%2C_Vol._1& [Apr 2005]

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